Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/SG/2737
           4 December 2000
     Secretary-General Says UN Success in Sierra Leone
    Will Depend on Teamwork
     

     NEW YORK, 4 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday in Freetown to staff of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL):

     Let me say what a great pleasure to be here again, and to be together here with you, with my wife and my team.  I want to introduce to you the new head of the Department of Peacekeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and also Assistant Secretary-General, Ibrahima Fall.

     I am glad to have this opportunity to see first-hand the crucially important work you are doing for the people of Sierra Leone.  First and foremost I want to thank you for the dedication you have shown during these troubled months.  Your resilience and commitment to the cause of peace in this country make all United Nations staff proud.  I can assure you that your colleagues in New York are filled with admiration for what you are doing here under very, very difficult circumstances.

     I also want to thank you for the way you are working as a team.  It is essential that you work as a team.  This is one of the most complex and demanding missions the United Nations has ever undertaken -- not only because of the many difficult political and economic issues facing the country, but also because there are so many of you, with different tasks and varied expertise, who must work together for stability and peace in a volatile environment.

     It is vitally important that you pull together as one -- as a single United Nations.  You may be military or civilian personnel.  You may be legal officers or involved in humanitarian relief.  You may be part of the country team for development, or work very closely with our many valuable partners in the non-governmental organizations community.

     Whatever the case, success will depend on teamwork, and on pooling your efforts.

     We owe this to ourselves.  There is no better way to multiply the effect of what you can do individually than by working together with your fellow staff, reinforcing and learning from each other.  Each of you is an indispensable piece of the big picture.

     Most of all we owe it to the people of Sierra Leone to move forward as a unified organization.  There is no better way to bring a message of hope to the men and women of Sierra Leone than to show that you, the men and women of the United Nations, can work effectively as partners, pursuing an integrated vision of peace.

     I visited Sierra Leone in July of last year, the day after the Lomé agreement was signed, when the United Nations had only an observer mission here.  I will never forget what I myself observed at that time:  a forlorn and exhausted populace, people desperately yearning for peace, trying to resume some sort of normal life and to recover from some of the most unspeakable human rights violations the world has seen in recent years.  So I have come back to Sierra Leone not just to see you, my United Nations family and old friends, but also to express my solidarity with the men, women and children who have suffered so much but have shown tremendous determination.

     In May our operations suffered a major setback.  Even now, there is concern about the withdrawal of the Indian and Jordanian contingents.  For my part, I am cautiously optimistic about the ceasefire agreement that was signed in Abuja last month.  But due caution is in order, given this country's recent history of broken ceasefire agreements and unfulfilled promises of peace.  There is all-too-much evidence to support the scepticism that I know many of you feel about future prospects.

     But I want you to know that we are doing all we can, on all fronts, to support your work.  We are strongly urging Member States to provide additional troops, resources, materiel and political support so you can carry out your work and mandates in a meaningful way.  We are pressing the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to demonstrate its commitment to peace by respecting the ceasefire, by participating in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation programme, and by allowing both UNAMSIL and the humanitarian agencies access throughout the country.  We are urging the Government to do its part, in particular to set out a vision for the future of the peace process and for the country's economic and social development.  We ourselves, within the United Nations, are trying to learn the lessons of the setbacks we have experienced, here and elsewhere.  This is one of the reasons why we are pressing ahead in New York to implement the report of the Brahimi panel.

     But there is a great deal more to do.  The threats to peace remain palpable.  The risks you, yourselves, face on a day-to-day basis are formidable.  We are also taking steps to modernize the way the United Nations provides for the safety and security of the staff it sends into the field operations on perilous missions such as this one.

     Let me close by stressing again that to the people of Sierra Leone, you represent not just a peacekeeping operation, a humanitarian relief operation or a development presence.  You represent the United Nations.  You are the United Nations.  You are the faces of the United Nations.  That is the tradition we must uphold, not the least because what you do here has important implications for our operations elsewhere in Africa and, indeed, beyond.  That is an added burden, I know, but I am confident and I have great faith in your ability to shoulder it.

     Each and every one of you is making an important contribution.  These are difficult times.  I promise you my full support as you continue your efforts to bring lasting peace to Sierra Leone.  Thank you again for your sacrifices and hard work.  Now I would be happy to take a few questions and hear your comments.

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